Tattoo by Tim Kern.
Stricter new rules governing tattoos and other appearance issues in the US Army have been approved, and once signed, will take effect in a matter of weeks. According to Stars & Stripes, the Army will soon ban tattoos visible below the elbows and knees, and above the neck; however, existing tattoos may be "grandfathered" in.
The new rules also continue the prohibition on racist, sexist or extremist tattoos, but go even further and make removal of such tattoos mandatory. Here's more from Stars & Stripes:
Once the rules are implemented, soldiers will sit down with their unit leaders and "self identify" each tattoo. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy, [Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond] Chandler said.I understand the ban against tattoos that are racist, sexist, and the like -- although, these tattoos do offer an upfront insight into the person you're dealing with (and whether he/she may have your back in combat). But does the prohibition on artful tattoos take things too far? There is such a historic tattoo tradition in the military; tattoos are used to express loyalty & commitment to one's division; to memorialize fellow soldiers who died; and to mark personal achievements and milestones.
I asked a friend who spent a long time serving in Iraq & Afghanistan what he thought about the rules, and he said that there are more important reasons than simply maintaining a "uniform look," and he shared instances where being tattooed actually affected a soldier's performance of his/her duties. Leaving aside that those in covert ops need to stay, well, covert, a big problem my friend witnessed was that tattooed soldiers faced issues when dealing with Iraqi military as well as civilians because of the negative stigma attached to tattoos. He said that he witnessed an Iraqi officer refuse to deal with a tattooed US military officer because he did not believe that someone with a tattoo could hold any rank. My friend added that it's hard to "win the hearts of minds of the people" when their minds are clearly occupied with cultural bias, and even fear, of tattoos.
However, you look at it, with this grandfather clause in effect, I'm guessing tattoo studios, especially those near military bases, are going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks as soldiers either get new work or finish sleeves and other major work in progress.